Tag Archives: lunch

Eating for £2 a day, part six: the return of pasta

6 Jul
Pasta with aubergine, fennel and tomatoes

Pasta with aubergine, fennel and tomatoes

Sixth, and final instalment in a series of posts about cheap meals in which I feed two adults (one of which is me) things they genuinely like eating, on a budget of around £2 each per day.

First, an apology: I already blogged on pasta as part of this series. There are other cheap staples that I could (and probably should) have devoted a post to – so honourable mentions to soups, to smoked fish and sweet potatoes, and not forgetting other carbs such as the humble baked spud or the poncier bulgur wheat (aka the cous-cous I actually like).

But the fact of the matter is, if you’re spending £2 a day, you’re probably going to eat a fair bit of pasta – I’ve regularly gone through periods of living on it four days a week or more. And simple tomato-sauce based meals can get pretty repetitive – one of the most obvious pitfalls of any diet on a budget.

So it’s worth mixing them up with the likes of the dish below, which is equally good served hot or cold (or room temperature, anyway) so it’s perfect to take with you the next day. It comes from the Cranks Bible, also home to the awesome pasta fagioli recipe I posted on back in January. And if you want something a bit less vegetable-based but still suited to skintness, just Google up ‘tuna cannellini beans pasta’ and get to work.

Pasta with aubergine, fennel and tomatoes (4-6 portions; total cost, about £6)

You will need:

  • 100ml olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 large or 2 small aubergines, cut into 3cm chunks
  • 500g tomatoes, cut in quarters and seeds removed
  • 1 chilli, chopped fine
  • A few basil leaves
  • 400g pasta (the original recipe says farfalle, but shells or similar work just fine)
  • 75g grated cheese
  • Salt and pepper

To prepare:

  • Heat the oil very gently and fry the garlic until transparent.
  • Turn up the heat to medium high, add the fennel and stir for about 5mins.
  • Add the aubergine and continue cooking until softened and browned – 10-15mins. Keep a close eye (and nose) on things and stir almost constantly to prevent the garlic from catching – if this is in danger of happening then drop a splash or two of water into the pan.
  • Add the tomatoes and chilli and stir on a high heat until the tomatoes have softened, but are still recognisably tomatoes.
  • While this last bit is under way, cook your pasta then drain.
  • Tear the basil leaves into the vegetable pan add the pasta and mix together well. Serve with the cheese.

Eating for £2 a day, part five: eggs (and the only pan you need)

5 Jul
Tortilla with onion, potato, garlic, bacon, peas and broad beans

Tortilla with onion, potato, garlic, bacon, peas and broad beans

Fifth in a string of posts about cheap eating in which I feed a pair of adults (one of which is me) a selection of meals that taste good, on a budget of around £2 each per day.

About five years ago, after a breakup, I moved into a house where, by coincidence, everyone else was also a recent heartbreaker or heartbreakee. Unsurprisingly, most residents were more interested in alcohol than food, so the kitchen was not that well kitted out – which eventually drove me to buy a pan.

I made it a large heavy sauté pan with a lid – if you have one of these you can pretty much make do with just a single other thin shitty saucepan to cook rice, pasta or boiled veg in. Since then most of the types of food I make have been prepared in it at one time or another: pasta sauces, curries, risottos, some of the rice-based pulse dishes I mentioned yesterday. But the thing it’s best for is making the kind of inches-thick omelettes you can live off for several days.

Some call these by their Spanish name: tortilla, others say frittata (the Italian version, which can involve a messy additional stage of whisking ingredients into your beaten eggs). Whatever – they are one of the best of all foods for using up bits and enjoying hot one day, cold the next, and should set you back no more than £1 per portion.

If you like spices, the Indian masala omelette is also a thing of beauty that you can adapt how you want and, should you somehow get tired of all these, a wide pan is also ideal for other simple egg dishes such as the Tunisian chakchouka.

Tortilla (2-4 portions)

You will need:

  • 4tbsp oil (at least)
  • 6 eggs
  • 3-4 new potatoes, chopped
  • 2 onions or leeks, thinly sliced
  • Salt & pepper

Plus a couple of things from this list, if you have them:

  • 2-4 rashers bacon, snipped into matchsticks
  • 50g or more salami, chorizo or similar, chopped
  • A slice or two of ham, chopped fine
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2-1 cup of frozen peas or broad beans
  • 1 small courgette, cut in half lengthways then thinly sliced
  • Handful of grated cheese
  • Or whatever else you fancy – so long as it’s not tomatoes. Their juice is likely to rob your tortilla of the caramelised underside that is one of its best features.

To prepare:

  • Heat the oil over a low heat and fry the onions very gently for 15-20mins. They should be soft and sweet but not brown.
  • Meanwhile boil some water and give the potatoes 5-10mins until almost cooked.
  • Beat the eggs with salt and pepper.
  • When the onions are done, start adding secondary ingredients. Turn up the heat to medium and fry meat, garlic or fresh veg for 2-3mins; if using frozen you can just defrost it under boiling water and add to the pan.
  • Add the cooked potatoes, continue cooking a minute or two longer and mix well so everything is evenly spread.
  • Pour in the beaten eggs, shaking the pan a little to evenly distribute, and set over a medium-low heat.
  • Sprinkle cheese, if using, onto the top of the still-liquid omelette – it’ll settle near the surface – and get your grill preheating.
  • Cook for 10-15mins or until just a shallow puddle of liquid remains on top of the tortilla, then grill until golden and puffed-up on top.
  • Slice like a pizza and serve with bread and, if you have any, some salad.

Siam Angel, Bristol

19 Oct

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A newly-opened, budget Thai-English hybrid cafe, Siam Angel was an obvious choice as a first proper Briz review on this blog.

Tucked away behind the library on St Georges Rd, the vibe initially leans toward the greasy spoon end of the scale. Classically Brit plates of (nice-looking) poached eggs on sliced white toast are brought outdoors to punters squeezing the dregs out of the autumn sunshine, next to homemade signs making sure you know that the same pleasure can be yours for £1.50.

Inside is all clean, functional and comfy coffee shop styles – apart from the short, straight to the point Thai menu on the wall offering staple soups, starters, curries, noodles and Pad Thai: at £2.99 for small plates and £2 more for all-in mains.

Time being short, it’s a bowl of tom yum soup each, an order of prawn and chicken toast to share, and a pot of jasmine tea to drink.

The toast, topped with black and white sesame seeds, is pretty as well as crunchy and tasty. Its lifespan is measured in seconds.

The soup packs decent-tasting, non-rubbery chicken pieces as well as sliced mushrooms. It is sweet, fresh and zinging, its lemongrass and galangal balanced with a forehead-warming dose of birds-eye chillies, apparently missing when Bristol Bites came calling recently.

The bill for two comes to just £10.30. If you go there in the evening you can bring your own booze. The two blokes running the place are chatty and amiable. In short, a no-brainer.

Eating a path across Glasgow

6 Sep

I recently spent two days in Glasgow, one of my favourite cities, but one in which I’d always reckoned it necessary to be flush with cash to enjoy. Not so, as the following proved:

  1. The Banana Leaf: I’d heard good things about this South Indian canteen on the fringes of the West End. Walk there down St Vincent Street and Argyle Street from town for a snapshot of why Glasgow can look more exciting than any other UK city.

    Century-old mini-skyscrapers (the reason film shoots such as the one for World War Z, the upcoming, Brad Pitt starring zombie thriller, use Glasgow as a stand-in for US cities) give way to vast slab blocks looming over a motorway canyon gouged into the earth, and finally to a landscape of genteel-looking tenements, where the tiny Banana Leaf can be found.

    A shared starter of Kozhi Varuval (marinated spiced chunks aka ‘Chicken 65‘), a giant, crisp masala dosa and a portion of rich curry came in at under £15. Worth a trek for even if you couldn’t care less about the surroundings.

  2. Black Sheep Bistro: finding this place was as simple as taking a punt on the number one Glasgow restaurant, according to TripAdvisor. A risky strategy maybe, but one that paid off (literally) in massive platefuls.

    Kitted out in a knick-knack strewn style that feels as if you’ve rocked up at someone’s home, and boasting an impressive disregard for food presentation, Black Sheep is not a place to go for trendy dining. But if the idea of tanning a solid, delicious portion of haggis, neeps & tatties before you’ve even moved onto a gloriously throwback main of beef olives fills you with greedy glee, then you should head here without delay. With a dirt-cheap wine list also part of the fun, Black Sheep Bistro gets a king-sized thumbs up.
  3. Where The Monkey Sleeps: in search of somewhere to get a sandwich in the city centre the next day, a list published in the Guardian last year provided the goods. Budgetary constraints meant that I only got a tuna butty from here, but packed with dill and dijon, and eaten sat in the sunshine at the top of the Necropolis, it was a proper treat.

New York Deli, High Street Arcade: a heartwarming tale

20 Mar

So I meet a friend, Tom, who’s unexpectedly been in town for the Six Nations, in Cardiff city centre. It’s Sunday afternoon, he’s been for a run and wants to go get a cheap bite before catching the train back to Sheffield.

Despite claiming to writing a blog about exploring the city for its best budget eats, I’m too hungry and scatty to think of anywhere good as there are just too many food outlets all around us, most of which will probably be overpriced and disappointing.

At that moment, my mate Sian approaches and helpfully points us in the direction of the New York Deli in High Street Arcade, which is a fairly standard take-out joint inside but has some nice old benches where you can sit out front. Both Tom and I are salt beef lovers, and are overjoyed to find this place sells the stuff by the yard.

I order a pretty damn gorgeous bagel also containing cream cheese, horseradish and gherkins. He opts for a massive hoagie that is too heavy to pick up with one hand. I spend £3.70; Tom drops about a pound more than that. We go our separate ways stuffed and super happy.

The End.


Cardiff Devils hoagie: far larger & tastier than an iPhone

Yes, more salt beef

As beans love hot sauce

9 Mar

Writing a blog on eating good food, cheaply, I’ve long been trying to stave off mentioning truly lazy standbys. However, I’m going to cave on this occasion, because:

  • I just ate Heinz Barbecue Beans for the first time, so *news*…
  • It’s an excuse to plug Encona hot sauce, which is a product I am addicted to and would happily be sponsored by, and…
  • If the likes of Nigel Slater can write recipes on how to make sausage sandwiches, and have people buy their books, then I’m in good company.

The Ultimate Beans On Toast

  • Can barbecue beans
  • Encona hot sauce, to taste
  • Mature cheddar cheese
  • Thick sliced brown bread

Toast your bread and butter it (obvs) >> slug hot sauce into your beans as they heat >> arrange cheese on toast & pour beans on top >>allow to melt for a few seconds then scoff greedily.

Thank you.

Living large: road-testing the broadsheet pack-up

1 Feb

Basic but tasty: the tuna sandwich as (slightly) remodelled by Allegra McEvedy

A tip of the Bare Grills hat this week goes to the Guardian’s Allegra McEvedy for her recent series on the humble pack-up. I religiously take packed lunches with me wherever possible, because these are three of my vices:

  • I’m tight (especially at this time of year) & buying my midday meal invariably spirals towards a fiver.
  • I’m greedy & am rarely satiated by prepacked cardboardy sandwiches.
  • I’m smug & believe that what I make myself usually tastes better (even if it’s just a cheese & pickle butty).

However you won’t often find me preparing something to eat on the hoof that has come from a broadsheet, as many recipes described as “quick”, “easy” or similar within the pages of our quality nationals require access to a thoughtfully-stocked & Waitrose-sponsored larder.

So I was pretty pleased when I came across the above recipe suggestions, which ask for a bit more than a loaf of bread & some cheese, but not excessively so. I tested several of them out over the last week and found:

  • Barley & bits salad took an hour to prepare and lasted me 3 days. I’m suspicious of food this healthy looking, but it actually tasted damn good.
  • Tuna pepper pitta pockets – ok these are far from rocket science, but 10 mins prep = two days’ delicious filling scran. Which also happens to incorporate cheese & beans. Can’t ask for more than that really.